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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Determining Hardware Compatibility with Server Platforms

Before you purchase or build a new server or upgrade an existing server, it's very important that you determine whether the server is compatible with both of the following:

  • The onboard or external hardware you need to use with that server
  • The operating system you are using (or intend to use) with that server

The following sections describe how you can best determine this information.

Determining Operating System Compatibility

If you are buying a new server or building one from scratch (a very real possibility today, especially if you want to create a single-processor to four-way server), you need to verify the compatibility of your server or server motherboard with the operating system you plan to use with it.

If you are purchasing an already-built server, this is relatively simple. Server vendors usually offer a variety of preconfigured systems that include validated operating systems. However, if you are planning to build your own server from scratch or by upgrading an existing system, you need to be more careful. The following sections describe methods and resources you can use to determine that your hardware is ready to run the server operating system of your choice.


See "Server NOSs," p. 758.

Determining Windows Compatibility

Windows Server 2003 is the "king of the hill" in server operating systems today. Most vendors of server-class hardware from motherboards to PCI-X cards list Windows Server 2003 compatibility on their websites. You can also verify compatibility for specific hardware with the Windows Server Catalog. You can click the link available at the "Products Designed for Microsoft Windows—Windows Catalog and HCL" page at www.microsoft.com/whdc/hcl/default.mspx to check compatibility with Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 Server.

If you need drivers for existing hardware, you should make sure you understand what version of Windows Server 2003 you need drivers for:

  • The standard 32-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 use the same drivers as Windows XP Professional.
  • The x64 edition designed for Intel EM64T and AMD Opteron processors requires specially written 64-bit drivers.
  • Itanium 2–based servers use the 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2003; this uses different 64-bit drivers than the x64 edition.

Determining Linux Compatibility

Many hardware vendors now provide drivers for various versions or distributions of Linux on their websites. However, you should first visit the Linux distribution vendor's website to consult the latest catalog of certified and compatible hardware.

In some cases, you might need to use an open-source driver for certain hardware. You should be sure to note where the driver came from and check for updates.

Determining Sun Solaris Compatibility

Sun maintains a list of compatible hardware for Sun Solaris 9 and 10 on its website. You can search the Sun Solaris hardware compatibility list at www.microsoft.com/whdc/hcl/default.mspx.

If you need a driver for a particular device, you should follow the link provided. The compatibility notes list any problems with the driver.

Integration with Bus Types

Generally, current server operating systems can be used with the most common bus types on the market, including PCI, USB, PCI-X, PCI-Express, and AGP. As with any other computer hardware item, driver support is necessary before a particular bus or component will work.

If you are coming from a desktop computer background, you have probably noticed that some server chipsets use older ICH or South Bridge chips than their desktop counterparts and that many of them use older and slower memory types than those found in the latest desktop computers. The most likely reason for this is to assure stability. Although desktop users can accept a certain amount of instability in return for better performance, servers must be stable, even if it means using "last year's" chipset component.

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